On October 26th I did the Panda Paddle 5K Stand Up Paddleboard race in Mission Bay. I had never done SUP before so this was going to be interesting. I registered for the race in September and told my wife, Laurie, about it. She offered to make it more interesting. She said if I could break 2 hours, that she’d buy me a pie.
In the weeks prior to the race I spoke to a few friends experienced in SUP. The consensus was that I should have no problem with my new sport and that I’d probably complete the course a bit faster than if I swam the course. I’m confident I can swim 5K in less than 90 minutes. My prediction for my 5K SUP was 80 minutes. I did not care what place I finished. I just wanted to try a new sport, support a good cause (World Wildlife Fund) and earn that pie. I got this!
My race started at 11:45am and unfortunately for me we had very windy Santa Ana conditions. I had pictured myself gliding over glassy, calm water, but this was more like a washing machine. Uh oh! 5 minutes into the race I was in last place. Then something funny happened. My SUP must have had a homing device on it because I got turned around and 7 minutes into the race I found myself right back on the exact same shore where I had started. Now I was really behind the rest of the field.
I got started again. A course marshal came by and told me I was using the paddle backwards. Go figure. That advice helped a lot. I started making slow progress. I had only tried to stand up once and the wind/chop promptly knocked me off so I was having better success on my knees.
700 meters into the race the Race Director came by in a boat. He said I was about to enter the part of the course in an open channel and that it was going to become more dangerous for me. He discouraged me from continuing. It was rough, but I felt safe the entire time. I knew that if I had a major problem, I could always swim to the shore. For the entire race the shore was always going to be less than 200 meters away. There was no way I was gonna quit. That pie was within my reach! I realize the Race Director was just covering his rear end, but he should be out there encouraging people.
Over the next 1000 meters 2 other guys on SUP came by and gave me some really helpful advice. My progress was improving. By the 3K point I was no longer in last place. I did try to stand up 4-5 times. Each time I lasted 2-3 minutes before I got knocked off the board again. It was hard on my knees, but my best position was on my knees.
I had fun the entire time. That was the whole idea. I finished in 1:40:28. I placed 71st out of 75 overall finishers. My ego had no problem with finishing in the back of the pack. It gave me a new perspective and I’m grateful for that. Laurie celebrated with me over a wonderful Chinese dinner at local restaurant and she bought me a strawberry rhubarb pie.
Living the life…